The bansturbators’ latest attack on liberty

Imagine prohibiting cigarette sales to people born after 2000.

Phasing out tobacco will stop the next generation taking up smoking.

Actually I’d be surprised if this is really new and hasn’t been bandied around nannying and anti-tobacco circles previously, but this is the first time I’ve seen something like it being seriously mooted in the pages of a major newspaper. And I have to say that not only is it one of the most illiberal and unjust (when something is legal for one person and not for another for no better reason than the lottery of birth we have begun to wave bye bye to equality of law) ideas I’ve seen but also one of the most breathtakingly naive, if not downright stupid and verging on self-fisking.

Let’s start with that subheading (yes, the stupid really does start that early):

Phasing out tobacco will stop the next generation taking up smoking.

Well, yes it would… if that’s what you were actually doing, or indeed is even possible with a product made from a plant that grows readily in the wild and is fairly easy to cultivate, and was to be attempted in a sparsely populated country with 25,000 kilometres of mostly uninhabited coastline. Before even reaching the body text the author, Cameron Nolan, has confused making something unavailable with merely changing its legal status and blithely declaring that as a result nobody will ever use it again. It seem unlikely that he has given any thought to the date on which various proscribed drugs were, to use his term, phased out. For many drugs currently outlawed this was before most users were born: heroin, for example, was last available in Australia legally in 1953, and even then required a prescription.* Hardly a ringing success at preventing the next generation from taking it, and since heroin laws here go back to the 19th century it can be argued that in fact they’ve failed for several generations. With such serial failure a hallmark of prohibition why should anyone but the congenitally clueless and/or nanny-prone believe that tobacco would be any different?

Imagine that cigarettes did not exist. Now imagine that some plucky upstart – let’s call them Philip Morris – invented them and went to the regulators for approval to sell their product in the Australian market.

You can hear the laughter coming out of the offices of Product Safety Australia as these new inventors explain that they want to commercialise a product that has the perverse combination of being both highly addictive and highly deadly.

Again, yes, though my personal experience with quitting smoking – hard when you’re doing it because others are laying the guilts on you about it, ridiculously piss easy when you’re doing it because you’ve stopped enjoying it – casts doubt on the addiction thing, and since there may be a tendency to label any death as smoking related that ticks some of the right boxes even if it’s from something with multiple causes I suspect the dangers are equally overblown. But in any case why should it concern Product Safety Australia or anyone else? Does Product Safety Australia claim ownership of the living bodies of smokers? Does ASH? Does the Health Department? Does Cameron Nolan? Can any of them or anyone else show that they have legal title to, and therefore responsibility for, anyone else’s body?

If the answer is yes then slavery is alive and well and operating in Australia. If the answer is no then Product Safety Australia can limit itself to making sure that potentially harmful/addictive products aren’t slipped into Australia’s markets pretending to be harmless and non-addictive. With tobacco this is probably not even necessary – we all know what it can cause, or at least what it gets blamed for, and if smokers choose to accept that risk because they enjoy smoking then that’s entirely up to them. If they’re not smoking me out – and that simply never happens – then I have no reason or right to tell them what to do with/to their bodies.

Yet this is not the world we live in.

It isn’t? So the state doesn’t arrogate ownership of people’s living bodies and an opium producer can go to Product Safety Australia and not be laughed at, or even arrested as soon as they’ve set foot in the door? The only sense in which it’s not the world we live in is that the nannies have not quite yet added tobacco – and alcohol, and fatty foods, and sugar, and Red Bull, and red meat, and Christ knows what next – and maybe it’s just me but I kind of get the sense that this disappoints Nolan.

We live in a world in which the mass commercialisation of cigarettes in the early 20th century rapidly outpaced our understanding of their health consequences.

Relevant only to those who wish to arrogate ownership rights over the live bodies of others. As understanding of the health issues grew that information has been made widely known. Not always with the willing cooperation of the tobacco industry, true, but it’s happened nonetheless. Nowadays who even reads the health warnings? Everyone knows what they say and we can’t ask for more than that, yet more is what the nannies always demand

We live in a world in which 15,500 Australians die every year from smoking-related diseases – more than road accidents, murders, alcohol and other drugs combined.

And here we have our first suspect figure. It’s almost Holy Writ that smoking causes lung cancer, and it’s frequently assumed by the lazy that it causes all lung cancer. Yet smoking is on the decline and lung cancer is on the rise, including among non-smokers. Assuming that the passive smoking scare is not bullshit the dwindling numbers of smokers must surely be smoking far more than the combined efforts of larger number of smokers in the past. Yeah, doesn’t seem real likely, does it? And that being so there’s reason to doubt the number of deaths caused by smoking, even when weasel words like ‘smoking-related diseases’ are used.

We live in a world in which every year three foreign companies are allowed to take a combined profit of more than $500 million from the Australian market while leaving us with a combined social cost of over $31 billion.

$31 billion according to a study which in fact conceded that the tax raised is greater than the medical costs to taxpayers, and came up with the remainder of the ‘social cost’ by means of some assumptions and a few seemingly highly arbitrary values being assigned to various things. Over to Chris Snowdon of Velvet Glove, Iron Fist.

This same study did indeed come up with a figure of $31 billion, but it did so by including ‘costs’ that no reasonable person would consider to be costs. Lost productivity both at work and at home gave them an extra $8 billion (p. 64). Aside from the obvious problem of coming up with a suitable cash equivalent for domestic work, all lost productivity figures are questionable because they rely on an assumption that an individual is capable of a set amount of work in a lifetime and that he/she has a duty to fulfill that quota, otherwise they are somehow costing other people money. It’s as if someone dies and you have to go round and clean their house for the next ten years. It’s a nonsense.

Still more dubious is the remaining $19.5 billion which is made up of ‘intangible’ costs (p. 65). This relies on the entirely arbitrary valuation of a life at $2 million, or a loss of one year’s living of $53,267. This kind of psychological evaluation is practically meaningless and has no place in economics. You might as well say that the value of life is priceless and, therefore, the costs of smoking (or alcohol, or drugs) is infinite.

In other words, what Cameron Nolan is referring to here is policy based evidence. Anything with arbitrary values shouldn’t even be part of an adult discussion on the issue, but since it’s headline figure appeals to nannies, paternalists and neo-puritans alike it’s reached for with depressing regularity. Cameron Nolan isn’t the first and won’t be the last. And speaking of which…

With this Gordian knot tied, the government seems content to pull as hard as it can on one end as the considerable might of the tobacco industry pulls on the other. The government bans cigarette advertising on television and radio; the tobacco industry increases its print media advertising. The government bans cigarette advertising in print media; the tobacco industry increases its sponsorship of sporting events. The government mandates graphic health warnings on cigarette packets; the tobacco industry adjusts the attractiveness of their packaging designs. The government mandates plain packaging; the tobacco industry hires a battalion of silks and runs to the High Court.

Oh, please. The tobacco industry adjusts the attractiveness of their packets? Seriously? This garbage can only come from the pen of someone who believes, as do the plain pack pod people, that people smoke because of what’s on the box. As I’ve said repeatedly on this subject, chop-chop, Australia’s illegal and regulated and QC free tobacco, is unbranded and comes in whatever the supplier has to hand, and it has no problem in maintaining a market for what it produces. What matters to smokers is how the cigarette tastes, not what the box looks like. Nannies are apparently incapable of understanding this so I’ll draw a parallel: try to remember the most delicious food you’ve ever had, and consider whether those sublime flavours are materially altered by the plate it’s served on and the cutlery you’re provided to eat it with. Alternatively, imagine if Michel Roux shat on the plate and served it, would being on a gold rimmed plate in a multi-starred restaurant that you had to book weeks ahead make it any more than a warm turd with some imaginative garnish? That’s how much packaging matters to smokers, and if it’s really true that it’s the nicotine that they’re hopelessly addicted to (coughs – bullshit) it should be no surprise to the nannies that packaging is barely even on the average smoker’s radar.

And indeed the boxes have really not changed all that much as the health warnings and horror pics have gradually taken over. Marlboro have always had the same font black lettering on white with red triangles meeting above, B&H have always been the same gold background with the name in the preferred font, etc. They adjusted bugger all in response to health warnings and horror pictures, they just conceded some of the background to them. Since the intended result, every smoker in the world throwing up their hands and quitting immediately, did not happen the nannies are desperately casting about for something to blame for people still sparking up. The health warnings and pictures are not allowed to have been a pointless waste of time, ergo it must be the ebil cigawette makers changing the designs, even though the only designs are broadly the same as they always were.

There is of course another way to untie a Gordian knot: by cutting it. The government could mandate that cigarettes can only be sold to a person who is over 18 years of age and was born before the year 2000. This would gradually phase out cigarettes in Australia by forever prohibiting their sale to the next generation – those who are currently 12 years old or younger.

And I’ve already explained that we should not expect this to be any more successful than prohibition of heroin has been at preventing anyone born in 1965 or later from trying it.

This proposal balances the rights of existing smokers and the need to protect children born in this century from the pernicious effects of tobacco addiction.

Ah, suddenly Nolan’s all concerned for people’s rights. But only the rights of those born before 2000 – people born in the 21st century have, ipso facto, fewer rights under his proposal than those of us born later. This disparity of rights is an essential part and I have no idea if Nolan is even aware of it. If he is he certainly does see, to mind some, to use Orwell’s infamous expression, being more equal than others.

Many of us will still be concerned that such a prohibition – as with alcohol in America in the 1920s – will lead to a proliferation of the black market.


However, the aim here is not to criminalise cigarettes but to drastically reduce consumption by as yet unaddicted future generations.

Yet the prohibition of heroin lead to the same disastrous results despite it being a more gradual process designed to reduce future consumption. Again, why would it not happen with tobacco? Why would the criminals behind the illegal tobacco industry not take up as much of the slack as legislation progressively makes available to them? There is simply no reason for them not to as long as a demand exists.

A teenager would inevitably still be able to source a packet or two of cigarettes from the black market or an older sibling, but they would be much less likely to form or sustain a ‘packet a day’ addiction lasting many years without easy access.

Just the same as how nobody can form a heroin addiction these days and how you don’t find needle bins on the walls of petrol station toilets, right? Oh, wait…

If we are trying to reduce cigarette-related deaths by 90 per cent, gradually withdrawing their sale from our petrol stations, supermarkets and 7-Elevens is a sure-fire way to get us there.

What? For fuck’s sake, where the hell does Nolan think chop-chop is sold now? Sure, out of the back of vans and through mates at work, but if he thinks none at all is going under the counters of dodgy shops and petrol stations then I have a bridge he might be interesting in buying.

Many of us will also be worried about the effect this will have on the tobacco industry and retailers.

Actually no, I couldn’t give less of a shit if I’d spent the past week on an Immodium only diet. As long as they have a market, by which I mean people aware of the risks freely choosing to buy the products anyway, they deserve to survive and the day they don’t they deserve to go the way of the dinosaurs. I’m vastly more worried by Nolan’s uneven approach to individual liberty.

Finally, what about those words that sit permanently perched at the tip of any tobacco company’s tongue – what about the “nanny-state”?

Who are you calling a tobacco company? I’m no fan or friend to them and I resent the association.

By that measure, the government should get out of the way and allow companies to start selling heroin, cocaine and other highly addictive and highly deadly drugs at everyday retail outlets. After all, they are consumed by people exercising free will and their commercialisation would create thousands of jobs.

Well, yes. And if that resulted in regulation, consumer legislation, quality control etc – all of which can be expected to reduce deaths and health problems – as well as the reduction of the black market and hence prices and crime (provided government restrains its greed and doesn’t go crazy with the Pigovian tax that’s widely accepted as being an inevitable part of legalisation) then what would be wrong with that? If nothing else it would remove the risk of prison and criminal records currently run by the large numbers of people who are able to hold down a job and remain productive members of society despite using drugs. If this state of affairs is less desirable to the Nolans of this world it surely can be only because there’s less control involved.**

Fortunately, most of us accept that such profits fall into the category of “ill-gotten gains” and demand that our government prohibit the creation of such unscrupulous markets.

And the only reason I don’t make some snarky remark about sheeple at this point is because Nolan is probably wrong about this as well. More and more articles are being written saying that the war on drugs has failed and suggesting at the least a rethink and softening of the stance on prohibition, if not decriminalisation and eventual legalisation. Yes, even in the very same newspaper that published Nolan’s piece (for instance see here and here and here), and polls on such articles (like the one at the end of this one) frequently show that most support it. So much for most accepting yadda yadda and demanding our government continues to make our decisions for us.

Ultimately, it is very difficult to come up with a good reason that justifies the premature deaths of 15,500 Australians every year. […] The phase-out proposal ensures that current smokers will be unaffected while future generations will be protected.

And in his very last point Nolan is wrong once again – it is very, very easy to come up with a good reason, and I can do it by quoting someone other than Cameron bloody Nolan.

Freedom is not worth having if it does not include the freedom to make mistakes.

Mohandas Ghandi.

If you’re not free to put whatever you like into your body in the knowledge that it may harm you then you’re not free. If you are not free to make bad decisions then you are not free. If you are protected from the consequences of your actions then you are not free. Everything about Cameron Nolan’s proposal involves people, initially just some but in time everyone, being less free and having less say and less ownership of their own bodies and lives. Christ, Cameron, the first two lines of the national anthem is about Australians rejoicing because they’re young and free. Aside from being young and carefully monitored for our own good not being anything worth singing about it’s a bugger to find a rhyme for it.

And really, does anyone believe it’ll stop with tobacco? Alcohol prohibition in the US may have been largely reversed after a decade or so but on the whole prohibition has been growing. Smokers and drinker and those who love liberty in general are fond of paraphrasing Niemöller’s famous poem (and I’m delighted and relieved that someone in the comments on Nolan’s piece in The Age had already done so by the time I found it – I’ve been getting a little worried about Australian attitudes to liberty lately***), but the truth is tobacco wasn’t even the first. It wasn’t even the first thing attacked that was once something many, if not most, adults did. The only difference from America’s Temperance led experiment with banning alcohol is that a more invidious salami slicing approach is preferred now.

The lesson most draw from Prohibition was that in hindsight it was unwise to have done it at all, while the lesson the nannies and neo-puritans drew was that it wasn’t implemented the right way. And I can’t help but suspect that in the back of many minds is the unspoken thought:

If only we’d been in charge of it…”

P.S. Those who’ve read the article will probably have noticed this at the bottom.

Cameron Nolan is a Masters of Public Administration Candidate in the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. This article won the Australian Fabians Young Writers Competition for 2012.

The Fabians, eh? Can anyone say it’s a surprise? And incidentally, the prize Cameron Nolan got from the Aussie Fabians was a thousand bucks, so if anyone wants to get their wallet out and pay me for fisking it I’ll take $500.

However, when a Republican mayor in New York is banning soft drinks over a certain volume (wasn’t popcorn mentioned too or was that somewhere else) and Conservative councillors in London boroughs talk about charging people whose lifestyles aren’t approved off extra for services they’ve already paid for in advance through their taxes, and also since historically their leaders have frequently been the worst kind of self-righteous, illiberal arseholes, the Right have got absolutely nothing to boast about and more than a bit to be ashamed of. When it comes to nannying, control freakery, big statism and generally being self righteous paternalist pricks the left and right are absolutely as bad as each other.

A plague on both their houses.

* We should ignore the point that morphine is, pharmacologically speaking, very nearly the same thing and is used by hospitals in large quantities every day. As I understand it the effect is the same as heroin but less rapid.
** It should go without saying that as well as being a non-smoker and teetotaller I am also not a user of any prohibited drugs. Been exposed to a number of them but was never interested.
*** Actually when I looked there seemed to be roughly as many comments opposing it on anti-nannying grounds as there were frothing tobaccophobic venom and smoker untermenschen stuff that Dick Puddlecote’s been collecting.

Posted on July 10, 2012, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 24 Comments.

  1. I foresee, if this lunatic and hare-brained scheme ever sees the light of day, post-2000 smokers being mugged by pre-2000 protected little lambs, for their state-sanctioned allocation of cigarettes (plain boxes, stamped ‘GI’) after presenting their smoking licence, birth certificate and monthly doctor’s note confirming absence of lung cancer.

    Heh, maybe I should join TC, I think I’m beginning to channel their mindset!

    • Possibly. My bet, if I was a betting man and it’s probably as well I’m not because gambling has entered the nanny conscious recently, is that the black market will be happy to supply as much dodgy counterfeits and chop-chop (supplied, as ever, either plain packaging or used supermarket carrier bags) as those who want to smoke need, whatever year they happen to have been born in.

  2. In the UK electronic cigarettes have recently become very popular. I bought one around three years ago. It was rubbish so I dismissed the idea. About a month ago there was a big ecig supplement in the Times (yes THE Times). The technology appeared to have moved forward, so I bought a fairly expensive one. Since last Wednesday I’ve smoked on average only two roll-ups a day – as a change and to show I am still a sad, smelly loser – down from twentyfive. These devices really do work as a cigarette substitute. A similar amount of nicotine is consumed, but this is no more harmful than caffeine. It even has benefits; for example as an aid to concentration. They are also fun – they produce vapour, there are lots of different favoured juices and there is the ritual of filling the cartridge.
    There is a great deal of opposition to ecigs. The drug companies who maufacture the useless patches and gum are desperate to get them banned. For the puritanical wing of the anti tobacco industry, they are a nightmare. Now people can go all their lives smoking ecigs (almost anywhere) and, if they want, having the odd “real” cigarette as a treat – like an after dinner cigar. The UK Government conducted one of their “consultations” in 2010. One of the options was to take them off the market within 21 days. All the drug companies supported this option. The option to leave them regulated as general products was supported by a large number of individuals from the ecig community, which also took a petition to 10 Downing Street. Since then, the Government has kept quiet. The EU appears not to have given up attempts at future interference.
    I’ve read that in Queensland, there is an $8000 fine for possession of nicotine solution (for use in ecigs). How does the Australian anti smoking industry rationalise this lethal measure which prevents a large number quitting cigarettes? Are Australian ecig users flouting this law on a large scale? Finally, Crocodile Dundee must be turning in his grave. How did your country take only 30 thirty years to become so totally ******?.

    • Not just QLD, I think. I may be wrong but I think there’s some kind of federal import ban on the nicotine liquid, so while e-cigs themselves may not be illegal when only non nicotine ‘fuel’ is allowed the demand for them is practically zero. I think any law flouting that’s being done is being done with regular cigarettes. Some outback pubs where the nearest cop or prodnose official is normally a couple of hundred miles away are going to be places where a blind eye is quietly turned when it’s just the regulars in.

  3. The stupid it hurts! And his article has won an award – from the Fabians. Says it all really. And it’s plastered on nearly all Oz newspapers.

    Just typical authoritarian nonsense from people who think they know how to run everyones lives but can’t even run their own.

    I wonder how he takes criticism?

  4. As I’ve said repeatedly on this subject, chop-chop, Australia’s illegal and regulated and QC free tobacco, is unbranded and comes in whatever the supplier has to hand

    Silver cigarette case?

  5. The “tobacco-free generation” idea was floated by Singapore in a prelude to the recent World Conference on Tobacco or Health:

    • Yes, the linked article did mention it being brought up in Singapore but the post was already becoming pretty wordy. I figured anyone who followed the link would see it.

  6. Juan De La Cruz

    Let’s hope the idiot does get his wish and Australia does include the 2000’s rule along with plain packaging in it’s measures to cut down sales of cigarettes.

    It just makes my mail order cigarette import business from Manilla to Australia just that much more profitable.

    Pack of 20 original Marlborough costs $0.80 USD, the bigger the volume purchased, the cheaper the cigarettes (plus Postage and Packing).

    Remember: – “When questioned, 9 out of 10 doctors who have tried Camels said they preferred women”

  7. All your libertarian arguments are fine but only if you treat all deadly and addictive drugs equally. To be consistent, you should therefore be advocating for legalising the commercial drugs trade in it’s entirety. Which would mean that you could buy different brands of heroin in the supermarket, for example. Current restrictions on the sale of prescription drugs would also have to be removed too. I can just see it now at the Coles checkout: “a pack of marlboros, a gram of heroin, and five rohipnol please”.

    In any case, libertarian arguments refer to the rights and freedoms of individuals not corporations. What ‘right’ do profit-making liability-limited corporations have to sell whatever they please, to whoever they like, regardless of any resulting harm to society?

    To minimise the impact on individual freedoms, you could quite easily create a law that prohibits the SALE of tobacco to those born from a certain year (e.g. 2000) without necessarily penalising the CONSUMPTION by this group. This is similar to the ‘decriminalisation’ approach to tackling other drugs of addiction, advocated by many libertarians – restrict the commercial supply, not the individual’s consumption.

    Most people are happy to accept many restrictions to their freedoms if it results in a significant benefit to society (e.g. speed limits on roads, gun ownership, asbestos ban, security checks at airports, etc.). It seems pretty clear that the scale of harm caused by tobacco in Australia (10% of ALL deaths in Australia i.e. 15,000+ deaths a year, including 1,500 non-smokers) is far greater than many other heavily restricted activities (e.g. drink driving) and substances (e.g. asbestos) and therefore warrants tougher legal restrictions.

    It is the citizens of a democratic society who should ultimately have the freedom to decide how restrictive these laws should be based on the perceived level of harm that certain activities and substances cause. That is why, around the world, more democratic societies (e.g. Canada, UK, NZ, Australia, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Germany etc.) tend to have stricter tobacco-control laws, traffic laws, medical malpractice laws, environmental pollution regulations, and other laws designed to protect their citizens’ well-being, than less democratic countries (e.g. Afghanistan, Zimbabwe, China, Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, Burma, Nigeria, North Korea etc.). If people democratically choose their lawmakers, then their laws are not imposed upon them – the “nanny state” argument only applies to the extent that the government/state is undemocratic and does not represent the will of the people.

    In a democratic society, every individual should be given the freedom to have their say on how the law is implemented – that certainly includes making laws that restrict the commercial sale for-profit of deadly and addictive substances, if that is what the majority of the population demands. It is up to the politicians to figure out what laws the people want, and to design specific policies that will win them the most votes. Clearly politicians in Australia have been responding to increasing demand for tobacco regulation for many years now, and I look forward to them continuing to do so, as the wider public continues to press for an end to the pointless deaths and disease caused by tobacco.

    • Oh dear, and I’ve had a long day and was really hoping to bugger around for the rest of the evening.

      “To be consistent, you should therefore be advocating for legalising the commercial drugs trade in it’s entirety.”

      You know, I’m pretty sure I did. Prohibiting drugs has achieved square root of bugger all but to hand control of the trade to the worst kind of scumbags who supply drugs of highly unpredictable quality to absolutely anyone with money, won’t give a refund for faulty merchandise, and defend their interests with extreme violence. Compare this with, say, the grog shop at Coles who are prepared to obey laws on licensing and consumer rights, sell products subject to strict quality control, refuse service to minors and as far as I’m aware have never had a gun battle with Dan Murphy’s. The idea that the drugs trade might become fully legalised costs me no sleep at all. The idea that people would prefer to maintain the status quo, the black market, the associated crime, the ridiculous policing costs, the health issues that go with inconsistently adulterated drugs due to non existent QC, doesn’t cost me sleep either, but it’s terribly depressing that so many people find all that preferable to the idea that their neighbour might be free to get high.

      “In any case, libertarian arguments refer to the rights and freedoms of individuals not corporations.”

      No, they do not – or I think should not – refer to rights at all. More on that in a mo. But in practice there’s no difference between individuals and corporations because a corporation cannot decide to do anything. The decisions are made by individuals, whether sole traders or CEOs overseen by boards and shareholders. My freedom, or lack thereof, as a company/sole trader is indistinguishable from that of my freedom as an individual.

      “What ‘right’ do profit-making liability-limited corporations have to sell whatever they please, to whoever they like, regardless of any resulting harm to society?”

      As much right as you have to breathe, that is to say none whatsoever. I try to avoid talking about rights because I don’t actually want any – a right is a grant that is given by monarchs, presidents, states, governments and so on, and what can be given can and often is taken away again. Liberty is not having rights that can be taken away on a whim, it’s simply being free – that too can be taken away by the states, governments and other rules, but only by violence. Currently you do not have the right to breathe, you are at liberty to breathe.

      Why should they not be free to sell what they like? They’re not going out into the street, dragging in people against their will, forcibly removing money from their wallets and packing them off home with whatever it is they’re selling, and if there’s no market for something the producers and sellers go bust. Customers for almost any product are invariably volunteers. As for liability limited corporations, this is an artificial construct. Why not have a simpler legal system and under which if someone sells a product claimed to do X benefit and it doesn’t or if they sell a product that fails to disclose that it does Y harm and then it does, then that would be a tort. Provided they’re candid about the risks an sell only to those who can decide whether the risk/reward ratio for that product is worth it to them personally (i.e. responsible adults only) then I don’t see the problem. The harm to society if I decide to take a drug, whether one of the legal ones or one of the ones the government prefers to allow criminals to control, is irrelevant until society comes round here and shows me the contract it has with me where I signed over control of my living body to it.

      “Most people are happy to accept many restrictions to their freedoms if it results in a significant benefit to society (e.g. speed limits on roads, gun ownership, asbestos ban, security checks at airports, etc.).”

      Do they really result in a benefit to society? How sure are you of that, because the last time I looked society had a hell of a problem with drug related crime that didn’t exist before the bloody things were made illegal. Last time I checked Israel’s international airports were getting along just fine without making passengers standing in queues (which are highly vulnerable to being bombed) to have their shoes X-rayed and their balls microwaved – I’m not kidding, the Israelis really do not have all this security theatre (as distinct from security) and despite being surrounded by people who want them dead they haven’t had any kind of incident for years and can get from car park to gate in 30 mins for an international flight. Speed limits? The safe speed for the conditions varies on almost a metre to metre and second to second basis, and speed limits are of very limited use in informing drivers what the current safe speed actually is. Consider this: if I disabled your speedo would you crash as a result? If you can drive safely without knowing your speed in strict numerical terms then you don’t need a speedo at all, and if so then the utility os speed limits is questionable.

      But fine. You go restrict yourself as much as you please. Hell, I’ll even join in. Already I don’t smoke, drink, get high or use the services of prostitutes – note that three of those things are currently legal in Victoria. Why should the way you and I choose to live be forced on someone else?

      As I covered it in the post I’m not getting into the alleged 15,000 smoking deaths per annum except to add that smokers are all volunteers. The science for ETS is arguable but in any event non-smokers too are overwhelmingly volunteers – I don’t like the smell of smoke so I move away from it, and all my smoking friends are polite enough not to blow it in my face. If a non-smoker chooses to stand in a cloud of smoke rather than avoid it they may as well join in and buy a pack, though if they simply put up with it they can be pretty certain that any harm it might do them will be negligible compared to the harm that comes with living in crowded and polluted cities.

      “It is the citizens of a democratic society who should ultimately have the freedom to decide how restrictive these laws should be based on the perceived level of harm that certain activities and substances cause. That is why, around the world, more democratic societies (e.g. Canada, UK, NZ, Australia, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Germany etc.) tend to have stricter tobacco-control laws, traffic laws, medical malpractice laws, environmental pollution regulations, and other laws designed to protect their citizens’ well-being, than less democratic countries (e.g. Afghanistan, Zimbabwe, China, Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, Burma, Nigeria, North Korea etc.).”

      Ah, yes, democracy. I was wondering when that would come along. It’s been called the worst system apart from the others, but I prefer to think of it as a thief in liberty’s clothing and the last refuge of every other closet dictator. So if a majority voted to, say, remove the vote from indigenous Australians you’d be okay with that, yes? Well, maybe not okay but it’d be democratically arrived at so you’d just accept it, would you? How about gay marriage? Are you for it or against it, and if you’re for gay couples being free to call hang whatever label they want on their relationship and being free to look for someone to do a ceremony for them are you sitting there accepting the injustice because the majority are voting for leaders who won’t allow it? And what about slavery? If Australia or any other democratic society voted to enslave part of its population would you be saying, “Oh, well, will of the majority of citizens so we must all accept it”? Or would you be standing with me screaming “No!” because that shit’s just fucking wrong even if 99.9999% of the voters voted for it?

      “In a democratic society, every individual should be given the freedom to have their say on how the law is implemented…”

      Yes, and that is how it works in democratic societies. But do not make the mistake of confusing a democratic society for a free one, and especially not our flawed western democracies which are often elective dictatorships. Having the freedom to have you say on how the law is implemented sounds fine until you actually sit down and calculate the value of an individual vote – even in a close election it’s practically zero. In a free society every individual foregoes this trivial and valueless freedom for something far greater: actual freedom subject to one simple law – the non-agression principle which says that you may inflict no harm to any other person against their will. That one law covers it all, theft, murder, kidnap, fraud, any kind of assaults, breach of contract and absolutely anything tortious (once proven, of course – innocent ’til proven guilty is under attack but it should damn well be kept around).

      Now I’m off to do something that someone somewhere won’t approve of, just like you’ve been doing for the past few hours. I have no idea specifically what you’ve been doing but it’s practically assured that someone somewhere disapproves of it, and if it’s not hurting anyone I absolutely think you should carry on. 😉

      • It sounds like you’re essentially against ALL laws and any form of government whatsoever then. To be honest I actually agree with a lot of that logic in theory, and if I was starting a hippie commune on a deserted island it would be wonderful, but it’s just pointless fantasy given the reality in which we actually exist. In any case, why the focus on this particular proposal if you’re actually against the existence of all laws?

        • I’m not against the existence of law. If you think that then you have entirely misunderstood what I’ve been saying, particularly the penultimate paragraph. The reality is quite the reverse. If I’m against laws to any extent it is having laws for laws’ sake and having too many for lawyers, much less laymen, to keep track of and comprehend. The UK government has apparently passed more than 2,000 new laws in the two years or so it’s been around – almost certainly all or nearly all are victimless crimes. I defy a professional to keep track of that lot, and since ignorance of law is no defence ordinary people can never be quite sure that they’re not breaking one or more and must live in fear of having inadvertently done something wrong. Oz is better, I believe, but not much. If you think that’s what law should be for then we will never find common ground.

      • The ‘no harm to others’ test becomes virtually meaningless when you actually attempt to define it – it’s possible to argue that almost every behaviour causes some degree (however miniscule) of harm to someone else, even those behaviours with a net overall benefit. Even if you did decide to use the no-harm critwrion, I would have thought that selling tobacco products seems to be one of the more obvious examples of a behaviour that would fail the test. Hence my earlier distinction between sale and consumption.

        • I’m having to repeat myself here. Prove I have harmed you – and by that I mean put a dollar value on it – and the law should compel me to compensate you accordingly. If my extension knocks $1,000 off the value of your house and you can convince a court of that then I should owe you $1,000. If the harm you allege is so minuscule as to be immeasurable and theoretical only then you have either failed to prove it or failed to show that value.

          The selling of drugs, including tobacco and alcohol since I hate having to continually distinguish between those drugs that are legal and supply the government with revenue and those that don’t, absolutely meets the no-harm criterion, which you have already forgotten an essential part of: no harm to anyone against their will. Smokers are volunteers, and unless being trapped by mobs of shrieking smokers in a fume filled room so are most non-smokers who claim they’re secondary smoking – we are are not compelled to remain in smoky environments against our will so if we’re there we’re there by choice and can’t whinge about it. Outdoors as long as I can put a metre or two between me and a lit ciggie I’m more than happy – any complaining on my part would be theatrics, especially living in a city with millions of vehicles. The only exception I can think of is the issue of the children of smokers in the home, and here we revert to the prove-harm bit. It’s widely believed that ETS is an issue but I don’t recall seeing any news of anyone suing their parents over it, and since there are so many healthy non-smokers of my generation who were exposed to what would now be considered prodigious amounts of ETS from their chain smoking baby boomer parents it’s something I’m fairly sceptical about. I’m not saying it’s harmless, but I am saying I don’t see it as proved yet.

  8. AE, I fear you may yet regret relocating to the land down under.

    It was a wonderful country when I lived there in the 70s. There was a “live and let live” ethos that prevailed (apart from the “fucking pom” thing. But that’s ok, I could live with that. I don’t lack confidence. Indeed, I conquered it by virtue of the career path I pursued). It was free. It was fun. There weren’t really that many rules. Nobody tried to nanny you. You just got on with your life.

    So what happened? It has morphed into one of the most repressive regimes on the planet. And yet more unbelievable, it would seem that all the Australian turkeys have been brainwashed into voting for not one, but two Christmases a year, and on an escalating scale. How can a nation become so blind? Do they really like being herded like sheep?

    It’s beyond me….

    And as for democracy, have you ever noticed a common thread that seems to run through every country whose name starts with “The Peoples Democratic Republic of….”?

  9. I wouldn’t mind betting that there is more to the motive of this article than meets the eye. Firstly, the article gives the author a forum in which to say something that is not true, that heroin is a “highly dangerous” drug. As you have alluded too, heroin is just a delivery system for morphine. It is NOT a dangerous drug. And there is no such thing as “heroin overdose” ie people stopping breathing due to “too much” morphine. This myth underpins the demonisation of heroin. To have someone from America propagandizing on this subject is not surprising. Secondly, where is the mention in the article of the other dangerous, legal drug, which a fair society would include in its plans to “ban” dangerous drugs such as tobacco? What about ALCOHOL???? Wherever there are double standards there are usually nefarious motives. The article shines the sanctimonious public health spotlight on tobacco but says nothing about alcohol. Interesting.

    • Probably keeping quiet about alcohol so as not to draw attention to the fact that that’s already under attack. Ditto unapproved food (going to try to avoid the term ‘junk food’ from now on as it means simply food that the nannies don’t approve of people eating). Gambling will be next.

      • The point I am trying to make is that the drug law in the great majority of countries is full of double standards and corruption. Alcohol under attack in Australia???? The last time I looked, I saw an alcohol soaked country with effectively zero control on its marketing. Politicians gleefully accepting donations from the alcohol industry. Under attack? I don’t think so. The “war on drugs” (drugs other than alcohol, tobacco and caffeine) has absolutely NOTHING to do with the drugs danger. In general terms the “illicit” drugs are far safer than the “legal” drugs. It has to do with (in the US, around 25 billion dollars spent federally for the “war”) creating employment, particularly in the law enforcement and prison industries and everyone who supplies them. Hence the lies about Heroin (morphine). It is just a pretense for diverting tax revenue to create jobs. The same ridiculous standards could not be enforced for alcohol, or tobacco. It is deemed “impracticable” to criminalise tobacco users because they are roughly 20 per cent of the population. Ditto for alcohol. It would be politically and practically impossible to oppress approximately 80 per cent of the population. Notice the double standard in the article of prohibiting tobacco sales but not criminalising the user???? The author talks about smoker’s rights: what about the rights of opiate users? They have none. Again, it is nothing to do with the danger of the particular drug. It is interesting to note that as the percentage of the population smoking gets smaller, the more likely it is that schemes of this nature are mooted. Alcohol will be untouched, not because it is not dangerous, but because its users have great voting power.

        • A(nother) blog post on this is in the works but for now I’ll just say that I quite understand the point about double standards, but that the preferred solution among those with the ear of lawmakers and the clout to see their will done is to move toward reclassifying legal drugs to be alongside illegal ones rather than the other way round. Far from being alcohol soaked Australia is already quite advanced in some ways. There have long been restrictions on buying and consuming alcohol, certain places, or places at certain times, being dry by law. To a large extent this has been out of a paternalistic concern for Aborigines (and the result has been, rather predictably, that many who wish to drink are now sniffing petrol instead) but the law must treat everyone equally and so I’ve personally witnessed cops confiscating beer and pouring it down the nearest drain.

          On top of this we have the incessant alcohol health campaigns on TV and print media, all ‘sponsored by the Australian government, Canberra’, or ‘made with our money without asking us’ as I think of it. Additionally talk of health warnings and even plain labelling of alcohol containers is increasing, and some alcohol control types state quite openly that they’re using the tobacco control template. I’m sure that their preferred solution to the double standards you mention (no argument from me there – I’ve been saying the same thing for ages) is to reclassify alcohol and tobacco, and doubtless eventually gambling, porn, takeaways, shooty videogames, Red Bull, red meat and maybe even red Smarties, to be the same as ecstasy, heroin, cocaine and weed. Sane people would prefer the other way round, though judging from newspaper polls a large number must want pot legalised and tobacco banned outright – go figure. Government are currently still trying to have their tax cake and eat it, but if their idiot policies on packaging and the harsh Pigovian taxes that already exist succeed in driving a significant proportion of tobacco and alcohol consumers into the black market the financial incentive to not reclassify them as illegal will diminish.

          Me? I’d legalise the whole lot in an instant with the very clear caveat that what an individual chooses to put into their body is their responsibility alone, though I’d agree that we should expect far fewer crime and health problems if, say, heroin was as cheap and of as consistent a quality as morphine.

  10. Somewhat off topic here, but I note you don’t have a link to in your sidebar. It’s a new site, so it’s quite understandable that you may not have visited yet. If not, I can highly recommend it as an insight into the various, nefarious tactics employed by the Tobacco Control Industry.

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